Maternal and Child Health

Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research

Our Research

The Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research carries out high quality research to improve the health and care of women, children, families and communities. The Centre provides an environment for the multi-disciplinary development of ideas and research initiatives in collaboration with professional, voluntary and service user organizations. The Centre has direct links with relevant professional educational programmes at City, University of London, such as midwifery, health visiting, public health and child nursing, which enable the rapid transfer of research into education and healthcare practice.

The Centre has three main research groups:

  • Models of Maternal and Child Health Care
  • Maternal and Child Mental Health
  • Public Health and Health Inequalities

The themes that draw out of these three research groups are:

  • Global Maternal and Child Health
  • Implementation

CG 3

Research Groups

Models of Maternal and Child Health Care

Research group lead: Professor Christine McCourt

Our research focuses on evaluating models of maternity, child and family services and care. Our work aims to improve care through rigorous studies using a range of methodologies with an emphasis on evidence-based care, appropriate uses of technology, service change and development and professional and user experience issues. This theme also has a strong inter-disciplinary thread of applying social science concepts and epidemiological approaches to clinical and organisational issues. Much of our work adopts a critical theory perspective and takes account of the complexity of healthcare interventions and contexts.

We are currently involved in a range of research projects and programmes on issues such as implementation of evidence based practice in maternity care, implementing NICE guidance on birth in different settings, factors influencing the uptake of midwifery units, trialling of home monitoring of blood pressure,  development and trial of a group model of ante- and postnatal care – Pregnancy Circles (see projects), inter-professional relationships and retention in midwifery and health visiting (COPE study – see projects) and analysis of maternity outcomes by time of day and day of the week. Areas of interest within the group include concepts of choice, risk and safety and their relationship with service delivery and change, professionalisation processes and experiences, gender and healthcare and concepts of motherhood, childhood and the family. Our work is funded by a range of sources, including the National Institute for Health Research, the European Union and the Medical Research Council.

Our findings have been published in high impact journals and presented at conferences around the world. We have established links with a range of user, professional and policy organisations and university departments at local, national and international levels. Our work has influenced the development of maternity services throughout the United Kingdom (UK) and internationally, and has influenced health policy and guidelines in this area.

Research Projects

BUMP Programme

This research programme, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, is investigating whether giving pregnant women the means to monitor their own blood pressure and urine safely from home, in addition to the usual clinic monitoring, can result in an earlier diagnosis of raised blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. We are also investigating the acceptability and practicality of this approach from women’s and professionals’ viewpoints and any impact on women’s experiences of their pregnancy.

Factors influencing the use of freestanding and alongside midwifery units in England (MU study)

The rationale of this study derives from the reported low percentage of women having their babies in midwifery units (MU) despite the good evidence that suggests for women with uncomplicated pregnancies, having a baby in a MU results in better outcomes and is cheaper in comparison to having a baby on a traditional labour ward. Therefore, this study aimed to explore factors influencing the utilisation of midwifery units (MU) in England.  This projected is now completed and findings will be published in 2019. Two articles on aspects of the findings were published in 2018.

REACH Pregnancy Programme (Pregnancy Circles)

The Research for Equitable Antenatal Care and Health (REACH) Pregnancy Circles study is the largest randomized controlled trial of group antenatal care undertaken internationally to date, and is the first to take place in the NHS. It aims to explore whether group antenatal care can improve the outcomes and the wellbeing of mothers and babies and is due to report findings in 2022. City, University of London is involved in the implementation of the trial and is leading on the process evaluation. A number of City Masters and PhD students have worked with the REACH team and City has also developed training in group care facilitation for midwives both as stand-alone workshops and a Masters module.

Recruitment was due to finish end of April 2020 however all recruitment was paused in mid-March 2020 and group aspects of the model suspended in our services. We have been working had with the services still active in the study to adapt the model to include virtual groups and self-monitoring and this is now beginning to take shape as services recover from earlier staffing shortages and the need to adapt to including more remote care options. Some sites are now looking to restart recruitment and this is pending NIHR approvals. Process evaluation has continued throughout, and has become more complex, as well as care and data collection for those already recruited being required.


Hunter L, Da Motta G, McCourt C, Wiseman O, Rayment J, Haora P, Wiggins M and Harden A (2018). 'It makes sense and it works': maternity care providers' perspectives on the feasibility of group antenatal care (Pregnancy Circles). Midwifery 66 (2018) 56-63

Hunter L, Da Motta G, McCourt C, Wiseman O, Rayment J, Haora P, Wiggins M and Harden A (2018). Better together: a qualitative exploration of women’s perceptions and experiences of group antenatal care. Women and Birth 32 (2019) 336–345.

Wiseman O, Hunter L, Robinson H, Leap N, Mackeith N on behalf of the REACH Pregnancy Programme team (2017) Advancing Practice: Facilitating group antenatal care: a new way of working. The Practising Midwife 20(9):18-20

The Collaborating in Pregnancy and Early years (COPE) project

The aim of this project is to enhance collaboration amongst healthcare professionals delivering care for women and their families during and after pregnancy.

Prostaglandin insert (Propess) versus trans-cervical balloon catheter for out-patient labour induction: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Feasibility (PROBIT – F)

This is a study of the feasibility and implications of conducting full-scale randomised controlled trial of an innovative method of induction of labour. Women who are booked for induction are randomised to receive either a prostaglandin pessary or a trans-cervical balloon catheter to start the induction of labour process. The aim is to compare how well these methods of labour induction work, which is the safest and least expensive method, and which is more acceptable to and favoured by women.

As part of this project, a systematic review has also been conducted of women’s experiences of induction of labour:

Coates, R, Cupples, G, Foya V, McCourt C, Scamell M. 2018. Women's experiences of induction of labour: qualitative systematic review and thematic synthesis. Midwifery, 2018-10.

Eating and Moving in Adolescent Pregnancy (EMAP)

This is a qualitative study involving interviews with healthcare professionals to understand their experiences of working with young mothers. Furthermore, with young mothers to understand their experiences in eating and moving during and after pregnancy.

Screening for Tuberculosis in Pregnancy Study (STOP)

This study is an observational feasibility study with a nested qualitative study, taking place in antenatal clinics. The aims and objectives of this study are to assess whether it is feasible and acceptable to screen an at-risk migrant population for LTBI at routine antenatal booking visits in secondary care, using opt-out IGRA testing. Secondly, to develop a definitive large scale cluster RCT to evaluate the effectiveness of acceptable interventions to maximise migrant screening for LTBI in pregnancy and to increase uptake of treatment postpartum. Pregnant migrants from high TB-incidence countries will be recruited, collecting data using interviews and focus groups of migrants and LTBI knowledge questionnaires.

This study was paused but the researcher, Gabriella worked with a community organisation to conduct online community interviews in the meantime. Recruitment restarted in September and we are left with a very tight timeline to conduct sufficient interviews with women involved in the trial.

Cervical Ripening at Home or In-Hospital - prospective cohort study and process evaluation (CHOICE Study)

The CHOICE Study is a NIHR-funded research project, led by the University of Edinburgh, investigating the safety, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and acceptability of home cervical ripening during induction of labour (IOL). The process evaluation (qCHOICE) explores contextual influences on implementation of cervical ripening protocols and outcomes, women’s experiences of IOL and acceptability of home cervical ripening to women, their families, and other key stakeholders, and is being jointly conducted by City, University of London and University of Stirling. CHOICE began in December 2019, and will run for 36 months.

Most work so far has been on protocol and ethics application and literature review so has not been greatly delayed. Ethics approval was received in early June so R&D approval process is now underway and the study is cleared to commence as soon as R&D approvals are completed as the survey is online and the clinical data for cohort analysis are all managed via the Badgernet system. Initial contacts for interviews will be generated via the survey. Data will be national (Scotland and England) and with 5 in-depth case studies across Scotland and England. Start date in September was further delayed by queries in relation to approval for opt-out consent but is now cleared to start data collection.

Outcome of pregnancy

This study looks at variations in the outcome of pregnancy by time of day, day of the week and season. This is funded by ESRC's Secondary Data Analysis Initiative. This study has been delayed because of movement restrictions as the data require a secure environment for data protection reasons and this is not available for home working.

Making a video clip to aid consent for outpatient hysteroscopy

The current way of obtaining consent for this procedure, which is commonly done awake, is outdated. It can leave patients disempowered, worried, confused and with wrong expectations. Legal specialists in the field of gynaecology have suggested the use of consent aids co-developed with users. Honorary reader Dr Liza Ball and research fellow Dr Rose Coates have obtained funding from Barts Charity, backing from the Royal College of Obstetrician and gynaecologists and ethical approval to develop a video as a consent aid for outpatient hysteroscopy. A virtual workshop was organised and experience of this will be shared in an upcoming research seminar.

Maternal and Child Mental Health

Research group lead: Professor Susan Ayers

Our research focuses on the mental health and psychological wellbeing of mothers, their partners and children. Our work has three key areas: risk and resilience factors in perinatal mental health; assessment of perinatal mental health; and innovations in the delivery of perinatal mental health care and treatment.

This multidisciplinary group comprises 8 academic and research staff and 4 doctoral students working on projects ranging from national studies of mental health assessment to international studies of perinatal mental health. Current and recent research includes perinatal mental health in women in low and middle income countries; assessment of birth trauma and post-traumatic stress; evaluations of innovative interventions for perinatal mental health such as peer support interventions and development of local services.

We have established links with NHS Trusts and user-representative organisations in the UK, as well as international links with researchers in Europe, America, and Australasia. This includes the International Network for Perinatal PTSD Research, an international research initiative which is run by members of this group.

Example Research projects

Methods of Assessing Perinatal Anxiety (MAP): the Acceptability, Effectiveness and Feasibility of Different Methods

This study aims to identify the most effective, acceptable and feasible method for assessing anxiety in women during pregnancy and after birth. This will be achieved through 3 work packages (WP) that compare 4 different tools for assessing anxiety: 2 anxiety-specific measures and 2 mental health measures (GAD-7, SAAS, CORE-10, Whooley questions) selected on the basis of research and clinical evidence that suggest they may be effective. It will be conducted in NHS services in England and Scotland.

WP1 has been completed and currently finishing up analysis and writing up paper. WP2 recruitment was delayed due to COVID-19 however should be starting up in October 2020.

Perinatal Mental Health Assessment and TReatment: an Evidence Synthesis and Conceptual Framework of Barriers and Facilitators to Implementation (MATRIx)

This review aims to identify the barriers and facilitators to perinatal mental health assessment, care and treatment for women, at individual, relational (e.g. women-healthcare professional), organisation, and systemic levels; and determine how these can be used to inform and improve perinatal mental healthcare services. This evidence synthesis will be conducted in three phases.

The first review has been submitted to Lancet Psychiatry and accepted for publication. We have started analysis for the second review.

Mums and Babies in Mind Project (MABIM)

This project aims to identify barriers to service improvement, and to inform and support effective solutions. Consequently, leading to good quality, evidence-based care pathways at the right time for all mums who need it. This project supports local leaders in four sites of England – Blackpool, Haringey, Southend and Gloucestershire, to improve the care and quality of life for mums with mental health problems during pregnancy and the first year of life, and their babies.


Caesareans performed late in labor, where the mother’s cervix is fully open and her baby’s head has entered her pelvis, can be complicated. If the baby’s head is deeply wedged in the woman’s pelvis, it can be difficult to lift it up to enable the baby to be born.  This is called an impacted fetal head. There are a number of different techniques that can be used in this situation, however it is not clear which is the best or most effective. This project is looking at whether it would be possible to do a clinical trial to test these different techniques. The research team will conduct surveys and interviews with parents, obstetricians, anesthetists and midwives to gather their views and experiences of these births.

The first phase of interviews finished last year and a Delphi study has been completed (led by Nottingham). The project has been paused. City will conduct the second phase of qualitative work from October 2020 to Spring 2021.

Mums on the Run

This study involves a group of Australian researchers assisting women with depressive symptoms to increase their physical and mental wellbeing with physical activity.

Attachment in Fetal Imaging (AFI) Study

This is a mixed methods study exploring first time mothers' and fathers' eperiences of fetal imaging (ultrasound and MRI) , and the effect it may have on the developing parent-fetal relationship. Currently in its first year, the project has received funding from the College of Radiographers and the Reseacrh Sustainability Fund at City, University of London. This project is a collaboration between two London universities; bringing together the work of the CMCHR at City, University of London and the Perinatal Imaging Department at King's College London. It is being supervised by Prof.Susan Ayers, Dr.Christina Malamatenious and Prof.Mary Rutherford.

Evaluation of the Together with Baby service

This project started in September 2019 and has received verbal extension from funder to continue to November 2020, funded by Parent-Infant Foundation. Together with Baby is a parent-infant mental health service provided by Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust. We have been funded to evaluate the implementation of this service and answer the question - what factors enable and hinder its implementation? To answer this question, we are conducting a multi-method process evaluation, interviewing numerous stakeholders, clinicians providing the service and families receiving the service.  We are also analysing quantitative data such as referral rates and intervention efficacy.

Project Lead at City: Dr Ellinor Olander

Project team members (including links to external partnerships): Dr Rose Coates, Dr Patricia Moran, Professor Susan Ayers

Perinatal Mental Health in Brazil

This collaboration with colleagues in Brazil looks at women’s perinatal mental health as part of the Birth in Brazil II Study of 20,000 women giving birth in Brazil. This study will help better understand risk factors, birth factors, and symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD in Brazilian women. This collaboration combines City’s expertise on perinatal mental health assessment, birth trauma, models of care and associated outcomes, with Brazilian expertise in perinatal epidemiology, evaluation and surveillance of public health interventions. It will improve understanding of perinatal mental health issues affecting women in Brazil and facilitate recognition and treatment of perinatal mental health problems.

Newton Links funding was obtained to extend the planned national survey to enable analysis of perinatal outcomes in relation to a range of factors in partnership with Fio Cruz research institute in Brazil. The extension also includes analysis by birth setting, with additional support from GCRF funds. The study was due to commence in March 2020 but the survey has been postponed because of the pandemic, although an initial planning workshop was completed. Ethics approval is in place with some minor amendments in process. Survey is expected to start now in October 2020, in one state at least, and if funded, will incorporate a large COVID analysis component


This project is a randomised controlled trial of testing for Group Streptococcus in pregnancy or intrapartum. It is funded by the NIHR HTA. The study has been currently paused due to COVID-19. However, a pre-qualitative study has been set up to understand knowledge on GBS-3 testing and views on implementing to inform the next study.

Public Health and Health Inequalities

Research Group Lead: Dr Ellinor Olander

Our research focuses on population health, preventive action and health care for women and children including socially and economically marginalised groups, including issues of equity of access to and quality of care. We aim to describe inequalities in maternal and child health outcomes to inform public health policies and improve services for women, children and their families. Research includes young teenage parenting, mothering and feeding children with neurodisability, maternal and child health in relation to HIV/AIDS, and the health of homeless and migrant populations, obesity in pregnancy and in children, sickle cell and female genital mutilation. We are currently working on projects ranging from locally focussed studies in East London to national studies, such as on prevalence of FGM and the timing of birth and its outcome by time of day and day of the week and international comparisons of perinatal indicators. We use a range of methodological approaches including quantitative and qualitative methods and linkage and secondary analysis of national and linked datasets.

We have well established links with Barts Health NHS Trust, Homerton University Hospital NHS Trust and public health departments in East London as well as with the Department of Health, Home Office, the Office for National Statistics and non-governmental organisations such as Maternity Action and the NCT and international networks such as ROAM (Reproductive Outcomes and Migration) and Euro-Peristat. Our work has informed the development of maternal and child healthcare services and policy in England and internationally

Research Projects

Young People Carers and Professionals Views, Experiences and Expectations of Services to Support Young People with Sickle Cell Anaemia

This a co-design study, involving 3 groups of people – carers, healthcare professionals and young people, looking at different interventions of sickle cell anaemia. The aim is to develop an intervention to enhance and improve health care provision of sickle cell anaemia.

Health policies and sociocultural diversity: a comparative study on childbirth services

The general objective is to understand the relationship between medical teams in maternity services and people (users) with a non-western cosmology. The project will illuminate this issue through cross- cultural comparison. In the Brazilian context the focus is on the encounters of indigenous women with health services, while in the UK the focus will be on those of refugees and recent immigrants. A same question will constitute the background of these two studies: how public health policies can account for the cultural diversity in a way that provide adequate care without disrespecting other world logics? The Brazilian part of the research will essentially consist in data analysis of an almost already completed fieldwork, while the UK part will give rise to rapid ethnographic case studies, supplemented by bibliographic and documentary data.

Rethinking Strategies for Positive New Born Screening Result Delivery (ReSPoND)

This study aims to improve the way that positive newborn screening results for conditions such as sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis are communicated to parents by health professionals. With the expansion of newborn screening in England, the importance of delivering screening results appropriately to minimize any long-term negative health and psychological consequences is vital; this project aims to develop interventions to improve such communication. It involves four phases and as a part of the project, the researchers will work with parent representatives for each screened condition covered by newborn screening who will form an advisory group to assist the research team, provide feedback on each phase of the project and monitor its progress.

This project was paused between March and July 2020 and has now resumed properly from September 2020 and will be finishing in December 2020.

Evaluation of Child Nursing Programme - Student Views and Experiences on Peer Mentoring

This study will evaluate child nursing student views and experiences on peer mentoring and understanding how to train them as peer mentors, in addition to assisting them in mentoring other colleagues as well.

Developing an Educational Pack for Student Nurses based on Adult and Young Peoples’ Perspectives on Sickle Cell Anaemia

This study involves interviewing young people, carers and parents of those diagnosed with sickle cell anaemia to assist in the development of an educational pack for student nurses. This pack should include all necessary information of what a student nurse should know in regards to this illness.

Cross Cutting Themes

Global Maternal and Child Health

Research Group Lead: Dr Susan Bradley

A developing strand of our work is addressing quality of MCH care globally, including in low and middle-income countries. This strand builds on a series of doctoral projects addressing subjects as diverse as HIV, female genital mutilation, health system stewardship, maternal health and respectful maternity care. Our work is now focused on the implementation of high quality and respectful care, goals that are now reflected in World Health Organisation policies and in the Sustainable Development Goals. We explore how structural factors and the organisation and models of care can influence maternal and child health and wellbeing, positively or negatively. We are focused on translation of international evidence on the value of midwife-led care in a range of contexts. Aspects of our work also bring lessons for improving maternal health and care from low-income countries to higher income settings like the UK, through community-based interventions and women’s groups – for example in models such as group care (see projects).

Recent support from the Global Challenge Research Fund has enabled us to:

  • Develop a network of partners in low- and middle-income countries with an interest in midwifery-led care and to successfully apply for further funding to continue on the IMaGINE study.
  • Carry out research on adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Ghana and The Gambia
  • Explore the role of midwives in efforts to end female genital cutting in an Ethiopian village.

We draw on critical realist approaches, post-colonial and de-colonising theories to provide a critical analysis of the forces influencing quality, safety and experience of care, including cultural safety. We also use implementation science theory to inform our thinking about how to implement change, but with a strong focus on social and structural approaches which take into account the

Research projects


This is a Horizon 2020 project funded by the European Commission.  It aims to develop a systematic and in-depth understanding of acceptable, feasible and sustainable strategies to integrate group care into health systems for antenatal and postnatal care during the first 1000 days. Group care is evidence-based, transforms the delivery of maternal, new-born and child health care and reduces inequities in services utilization, improves the quality of services, and can make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of mothers, families and children. It will use demonstration sites in 4 LMICs (Ghana, Suriname, South Africa, Kosovo), and 3 high-income countries (The Netherlands, Belgium, UK) in settings that serve the most vulnerable women and girls, will deliver group antenatal and postnatal care throughout the project.

Specifically, GC_1000 will:

1. Implement group antenatal and postnatal care in selected demonstration sites in collaborative ways that set the groundwork for sustained service delivery and possibilities for scaling- up;

2. Analyse within country data that emerge from the implementation process to create country-specific blueprints for scale-up;

3. Use cross-country synthesis to develop a global implementation strategy toolbox for the adaptation, implementation and scale up of facilitated group care within the first 1000 days, particularly to reach the most vulnerable groups of women and girls globally.

This study started in January 2020. This study is experiencing some delays and adaptations needed because of travel and social distancing restrictions affecting the care model directly but there has been work on adaptations to the model and methods of initial data collection to compensate for this. City is leading Work Package 5 on evaluation of the programme.

Implementing Midwifery-units – a Global INnovation and Evaluation programme (IMaGINE)

This is an on-going research and development programme to test whether the introduction of midwifery units (MUs), staffed by dedicated midwives, can improve the birth environment and experience of care for women and midwives in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).  IMaGINE focuses on the potential of midwifery-led care and services to address the complex, multi-faceted problems of widespread disrespect and abuse during birth, lack of evidence-based practice, and women’s reluctance to engage with facility-based birth. While we have robust evidence from high-income countries on the benefits of midwife-led care models (for women and midwives), such evidence is lacking from resource-constrained contexts.  The initial stages of our programme were supported by Global Challenge Research Funding.  This enabled us to establish a network of actors from Malawi, Sudan, Brazil and India and to work together to carry out a systematic review/ meta-synthesis of current evidence on the impact of midwifery units in LMICs.  We have also undertaken key stakeholder workshops and situational analyses in three of the four partner countries.  Future plans involve identifying pilot project sites to carry out implementation and evaluation of MUs in these contexts.

The project has progressed, with planned work completed in Brazil, Malawi and Sudan and but the work in India had had to be postponed because of the lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Conducting a cross comparison between countries: looking at women's choices on place of birth

This is an ethnographic study, exploring the complexity of social processes on decision-making related to the universe of meanings, reasons, beliefs, values and attitudes that influence women’s birthplace choice.

Birthplace in Brazil

This project involves collaboration with colleagues at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in Brazil. It is forms part of a wider study to look at women’s perinatal mental health as part of the Birth in Brazil II Study of 20,000 women giving birth in Brazil. This study, funded by the Newton Fund, will help better understand risk factors, birth and care factors, and symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD in Brazilian women. The Birthplace in Brazil study, funded by the Grand Challenges Research Fund enables us to look specifically at outcomes of births planned in freestanding midwifery units in Brazil. Development of midwifery units (Centros de Parto Normal) formed a key part of the maternity reform policy in Brazil, to improve outcomes and experiences of care and reduce the excessive rates of intervention. However, only a small number have been implemented to date and these are mainly concentrated in a few cities. This study will help to provide evidence which should increase confidence in implementation across Brazil.

Researchers at City: Dr Nathalie Leister, Dr. Rose Coates, Dr. Louise Williams, Prof. Christine McCourt, Prof. Susan Ayers

Partners: Friocruz, Brazil

Birth in Brazil II

City, University of London has formed a partnership with a Brazilian institution. This project is exploring maternity care in Brazil including a national survey of obstetric units, midwifery units and surveying over 20000 women.

Respectful care in maternity (doctoral project)

This study explored midwives’ perspectives on the practice, impact and challenges of delivering respectful maternity care in Malawi, highlighting the considerable challenges facing staff in this context. Prior to this, much of the research had focussed on women’s experiences. This work aimed to include the voice of the midwife.

Two systematic reviews were conducted to understand the broader drivers of disrespectful care during birth in sub-Saharan Africa. One explored women’s experiences; the second focussed on midwives perspectives.

Clinical outcomes and women’s decision making in Brazilian birth centres

This study aims to show the optimum maternal and perinatal outcomes in Midwifery Units, explore the reasons for why majority of women with uncomplicated pregnancies give birth in obstetric units when there is no clinical indication and the reasons behind choosing this environment against the evidences on places of birth.


Research Group Lead: Dr Lucia Rocca-Ihenacho

Research projects

Implementing evidence on birth place into policy, provision and practice in Europe

The Midwifery Units (MU) Standards were developed by a team led by Dr Rocca-Ihenacho as part of her NIHR Knowledge Mobilisation Fellowship, thus being translational. The aim of the standards was to support the implementationof the evidence produced by our prior research on place of birth and particularly to support maternity units planning to open new MUs or improving existing ones.

The MU Standards were launched during the second MUNet Conference at City in July 2018 and we now want to develop indicators and an assessment tool in order to further develop impact. The Standards document includes 27 standards under 10 themes that capture the evidence base, translating it into more practical guidance. At present the Standards do not include indicators for users to benchmark where their service is in relation to the Standards or any improvements achieved. The number of indicators is expected to be approximately 50.

We propose to create indicators and a self-assessment tool for users to assess their own services against each of the published Standards. This can also hold future income generating opportunities for MUNet in terms of creating an accreditation system.

NICE Birthplace Action

The aim of this study is to develop and evaluate a theoretically informed knowledge implementation pathway that service providers and commissioners can use as a guide to implement evidence on birthplace into NHS services which require complex organisational and professional practice change.

This study has been completed and is in the analysis stage.

Barkantine report

MU Standards

Pregnancy Circles Implementation pilot

As the Research for Equitable Antenatal Care and Health (REACH) Pregnancy Circles trial was drawing to a close in 2020, a team of researchers from the Centre for Maternal and Infant Health Research at City were granted funding for a small study exploring how this innovative model of group antenatal care might be rolled as part of normal NHS maternity care.

In order to better understand midwives’ lived experience of facilitating gANC within the NHS, it was felt that practising midwives should be involved not only as participants, but as partners in the study design, data collection and analysis alongside the research team. A co-production framework was employed, adapted from Henshall et al (2018) and three midwives from different Trusts who had facilitated Pregnancy Circles were recruited to collaborate. The midwives contributed to the topic guide and took the lead in facilitating the online focus group discussion with their peers. Different aspects of the data were then analysed by each member of the team, with findings summarised and discussed together. The partnership has proved to be a rich source of discussion and insight, balancing theoretical insight with practical realities.

Findings are currently being written up for a journal article.

Professor Susan Ayers



PhD Students

  • Laura Batinelli‘Supporting the implementation and scaling-up of midwifery units in Europe: how can capacity in the maternity workforce be developed?’
  • Giordana Pinheiro Da Motta - 'Exploring the potential of a group model of postnatal care'
  • Florence DarlingAn exploration of contextual facilitators and barriers to the implementation of evidence-based practices to support physiological labour and birth in obstetric settings: a mixed methods study.
  • Amy Delicate - 'A UK study investigating the support required by a couple’s relationships following birth trauma; implications for best practice'.
  • Jenny McLeish‘Understanding perinatal mental health volunteer peer support in the third sector’
  • Aliyha Ghumman – ‘Improving Maternity Care for Women Who Have Undergone Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): A Participatory Co-designed Project’
  • Aaliyah Shaikh – ‘British Muslim Experiences of Pregnancy and Birth’
  • Liz Dudeney - 'Identifying women at risk of suicide in pregnancy and after birth'
  • Emily Skelton - 'Exploring first time mothers’ and fathers’ experiences of fetal imaging (ultrasound and MRI), and the effect it may have on the developing parent-fetal relationship'
  • Jalana Lazar - 'A study of midwifery experiences of facilitating group antenatal care in diverse country contexts'
  • Anna Horn - 'Vulnerable and disadvantage women accessing group care in the UK and South Africa'
  • Lisa Welcland - 'Meaningfull voices: Birth experiences of women with FGM, and variations in obstetric outcomes in three European hospitals - A Mixed-Methods Study'
  • Vivian Holmes - 'Improving the quality of antenatal care for women with a high Body Mass Index (BMI): a qualitative study exploring the acceptability and feasibility of a group care model'

PhD Graduates

  • Claudia Oblasser - 'Vibrating vaginal balls to improve pelvic floor muscle performance in women after childbirth: A randomised controlled feasibility trial'
  • Dr Roa Altaweli - Assessing Early Sociocognitive & Language Skills in Young Saudi Children
  • Dr Agatha BulaInfluences of HIV and exclusive breastfeeding: an exploration of community-based peer support in rural Malawi
  • Dr Jackie Baxter – Listening to women after birth: their perceptions of postnatal support and the potential value of having a postnatal debriefing session with a midwife
  • Dr Ghada Ibrahim – The role of the health system in women’s utilisation of maternal health services in Sudan
  • Dr Maria Raisa (Ryc) Acquino – Studies of midwives’ and health visitors’ interprofessional collaborative relationships
  • Miriam Ashford – An examination of necessity and feasibility of web-based treatments for postpartum anxiety
  • Dr Gayle Clifford – ‘Am iz kwiin’ (I’m his queen): An exploration of mothers’ disclosure of maternal HIV to their children in Kingston, Jamaica
  • Pelin Dikmen – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Pregnancy and After Birth in Women in Turkey
  • Donna Moore – Online Resources for Perinatal Mental Illness and Stigma
  • Shawn Walker – Competence and expertise in physiological breech birth
  • Dr Rebecca WebbMaternal and mental health, processing of emotion and maternal sensitivity
  • Dr Cassandra Yuill - 'Deciding where to give birth in East London: an ethnography'

Seminars & Events

The Centre hosts research seminars regularly as part of the School of Health and Psychological Sciences’ weekly research seminar programme. All are welcome to attend but it is essential to contact the organiser beforehand for room and catering planning and in case of any late changes or cancellation. We will aim to make presentations or podcasts available on the website where possible.

Upcoming Conferences, Seminars and Events

The Circle Way: Understanding Group Antenatal Care - 4th event of the Midwifery and Global Maternal Health Webinar Series

  • Date: Monday 15 May 2023
  • Presenters: Mariana Rigolon and Jalana Lazar

The Circle Way Webinar Poster

Check back for details of future events.

Past Seminars


Facilitators and barriers to the implementation of a physiological approach in two obstetric units in England

  • Date: Monday 13 March 2023
  • Presenter: Florence Darling

Clinicians' perspectives and experiences of providing cervical ripening at home or in-hospital in the United Kingdom

  • Date: Monday 6 February 2023
  • Presenter: Dr Cassandra Yuill

Learning from Each Other: Scaling up Midwifery as a System and a Unique Profession in Egypt

Lessons Learned From a Maternal Health-Focused Podcast Mini-Series Created for Pregnant and Postpartum Black, Indigenous and People of Color

  • Date: Monday 17 October 2022
  • Presenter: Kai Holder


Induction of labour during the COVID-19 pandemic: findings of a national survey of impact on practice in the UK

  • Date: Monday 8th March 2021
  • Presenter: Professor Christine McCourt
  • Please click here for the link to the recording
  • Passcode:k4Fg+67k

Strategies for implementing primary care models in maternity - a systematic review on midwifery units

  • Date: 9th November 2020
  • Presenter: Laura Batinelli
  • Please click here for the link to the recording
  • Passcode: GW?K$35S

Running a PPI group during the pandemic

  • Date 19th October 2020
  • Presenter: Dr Liz Ball
  • Please click here for the link to the recording.
  • Passcode: L#bAU5%e


Women's experiences of 'outpatient' induction of labour

  • Date 21st October 2019
  • Presenter: Dr Rose Coates

Psychological Adjustment to Pregnancy and Postnatal Outcomes

  • Took place on 1st July, 2019
  • Presenter: Jessica Latack

Deciding where to give birth in East London

  • Took place on 20th May, 2019
  • Presenter: Cassandra Yuill

Clinical outcomes and women’s decision making in Brazilian birth centres

  • Took place on 11th March, 2019
  • Presenter: Nathalie Leister

Participant and provider views and experiences of the ESTEEM dietary intervention for pregnant women with metabolic risk factors

  • Took place on 4th February, 2019
  • Presenter: Adela Hamilton

Perinatal mental health in Croatia: research and practices

  • Took place on 27th November, 2018
  • Presenter: Sandra Nakic-Rados

Rethinking Strategies for Positive New-born Screening Result Delivery (ReSPoND): a process evaluation of co-designing interventions to minimise impact on parental emotional well-being and stress

  • Took place on 5th November, 2018
  • Presenter: Jane Chudleigh

Vibrating vaginal balls to improve pelvic floor muscle performance in women after childbirth: a randomised controlled feasibility trial

  • Took place on 1st October, 2018
  • Presenter: Claudia Oblasser


A time to be born

  • Took place on 2nd July, 2018
  • Presenter: Alison MacFarlane

Perceptions of pregnancy-related risk in pregnant women, midwives and obstetricians

  • Took place on 21st May, 2018
  • Presenter: Suzanne Lee

Learning from fathers’ views and experiences of their own mental health during pregnancy and the first postnatal year

  • Took place on 5th February, 2018
  • Presenter: Zoe Darwin

Learning to birth, mastering the social practice of birth: women’s experiential learning in the birth room and why it matters

  • Took place on 4th December, 2017
  • Presenter: Jo Dagustun

Building relationships and trust: two key features of freestanding midwifery unit care

  • Took place on 18th September, 2017
  • Presenter: Lucia Rocca-Ihenacho

Previous Conferences and Events

Reclaiming Resilience in Midwifery: from big structural challenges to small, radical acts of kindness - 3rd event of the Midwifery and Global Maternal Health Webinar Series

  • 27 March 2023
  • Zoom Webinar

Reclaiming Resilience Webinar Poster

CHERISH Programme Development Project LAUNCH EVENT

  • 20th January 2023
  • MS Teams Webinar

Society of Reproductive and Infant Psychology (SRIP) 40th Conference 2020

  • 8th and 9th September 2020
  • University of Chester

Begin Before Birth Virtual Conference

  • 11th June 2020

Midwifery Unit Network Online Webinar

  • 5th May 2020
  • Visit Midwifery Unit Network Facebook group for link to join

1st European Midwifery Unit Network Conference: Implementing Midwifery Units in Europe: a multidisciplinary effort

  • 4th and 5th November 2019
  • Barcelona, Spain

Society of Reproductive and Infant Psychology (SRIP) 39th Conference 2019

  • 5th and 6th of September 2019
  • City, University of London

The Society for Reproductive and Infant Psychology (SRIP) is an international organisation bringing together research on psychological, socio-cultural and political aspects of reproduction, birth and infancy. The Society raises awareness of psychological, social and political aspects of reproductive and infant health through scientific conferences and workshops, our journal The Journal of Reproductive & Infant Psychology, and liaising with professional bodies and the public.

Our annual conferences provides the means to exchange research findings, develop research interests, develop research networks and engage with clinical and academic partners.

Midwifery Unit Network Conference (MUNet) 2018

  • Took place on 10th July 2018.

At the conference, Dr Lucia Rocca-Ihenacho and colleagues launched the Midwifery Unit Standards developed as part of an NIHR post-doctoral fellowship at City, University of London. The Standards have been developed over an 18 month period by a team of researchers with input from a broad range of stakeholders across the UK and mainland Europe, RCM, EMA and delegates at the 2017 ICM conference.

They celebrated Birth Centre Beacon Sites and certificates were presented by Kathryn Gutteridge, President of the Royal College of Midwives.

Leading midwives and policymakers from all four countries of the UK presented on making services more responsive to women's and babies' needs, more family-friendly, and unlocking the potential of birth centres.


  • Session 1: Midwifery care pathways and midwifery units across the UK
  • Session 2: Identifying and sharing good practice
  • Session 3: Evidence into practice

Positive Birth Conference

  • Took place on 20th July 2017.

This conference aimed to share research and experiences related to positive birth. Featuring a number of high profile speakers and guests from the area, the day shared some of the latest research from the discipline as well as service users’ experiences in order to explore the concepts of positive birth and informed choice. The event was organised by Judith Flood, a midwifery lecturer in the School of Health and Psychological Sciences at City.



Student nurses and midwives showing strength in support of NHS 

City Students taking Nursing, Midwifery, Radiography or Speech and Language Therapy courses will benefit from £5,000 grant from September 2020

Recommendations for how midwifery units can support the NHS during COVID-19 crisis

Improved access to Midwifery Units is urgently needed 


How do we best measure the effect of PTSD on women following traumatic childbirth?

City pregnancy programme shortlisted for Royal College of Midwives innovation award


Midwifery Unit Network

In collaboration with the Royal College of Midwives, the Midwifery Unit Network offers support to those wishing to develop midwifery units (birth centres), and to already established midwifery units. The network acts as a hub to share good practice and information resources, and be a community of practice with a shared philosophy essential to offer consistent, excellent and safe care for women and their families.

The aim of the Midwifery Unit Network is to maximise potential for a positive childbirth experience, and to enhance the physical and psychological wellbeing of childbearing women and their babies, through the promotion and support of midwifery units (birth centres).

International Network for Perinatal PTSD Research

This is a network of researchers and clinicians who are working together to reduce birth trauma and perinatal PTSD across the world.

The website provides information on the latest perinatal PTSD research, events, and an interactive blog where researchers can interact and post questions. The latest research papers on perinatal PTSD are posted monthly.

Parent Research Advisory Group

The Centre runs a Patient and Public Involvement group where parents and parents-to-be collaborate on research projects.  To date, parents have helped develop questionnaires, participant recruitment strategies and grant proposals.

Research Tools

We have a range of questionnaires and research tools that are freely available to download or use on request. These include:

City Infant Faces 

City Infant Faces is a database of standardised photographs of baby faces showing different emotions. These have been categorised into positive, negative and neutral emotions and can be used in studies of the perception of infant emotions. The City Infant Faces database has been validated and is available on request for research use only (contact us).

The City Birth Trauma Scale (CityBiTS)

The CityBiTS is a questionnaire measure of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after birth. This questionnaire measures symptoms and diagnosis of PTSD according to DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. It also includes items from DSM-4 that research suggests are discriminative when diagnosing postnatal PTSD. Available on request (contact us).

The City Mental Illness Stigma Scale (CityMISS)

The CityMISS is a questionnaire measure of perceived stigma for mental illness in pregnancy and postpartum. It is available on request (contact us).

Support and Control in Birth Scale (SCIB)

The SCIB measures control during birth and perceived support from health professionals. It has 3 subscales: support from healthcare professionals, perceived internal control, and perceived external control. Validated versions are available in English, German and Turkish:
SCIB – English version
SCIB – German version
SCIB – Turkish version

Preterm Birth Experiences and Satisfaction Scale (P-BESS)

The P-BESS measures experiences and satisfaction with care during the birth of a preterm baby. It can be used with mothers and fathers. Validated versions are available to download in English. A Portuguese version is currently being validated so will be available soon.
P-BESS English version

Birth Memory and Recall Questionnaire (BirthMARQ)

The BirthMARQ measures women’s memories of birth and aspects of recall. It has 5 subscales of: (1) emotional memories, (2) centrality of memories to self, (3) coherence of memories, (4) reliving of memories and (5) recall of memories. Validated versions are available to download in English. Persian and Czech versions are currently being validated so will be available soon.